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I Suffer From Occipital Neuralgia

Occipital Neuralgia Treatment

Occipital Neuralgia is a medical disorder that presents with piercing, throbbing, or electric-shock-like chronic pain in the upper neck, back of the head and behind the ears. For some people, the severe headache pain will present in the forehead, behind the eyes, or in the scalp. Occipital Neuralgia is usually unilateral, meaning it is only on one side of the head.

At the Sydney Headache and Migraine Clinic, we have seen countless Occipital Neuralgia sufferers and use world-class techniques in identifying whether the neck and brainstem is at fault.

Once we commence with treatment, we expect a significant improvement to occur rapidly in 90% of our patients with Occipital Neuralgia and within the first 5 treatment consultations. Book today for an appointment for your non-medicated and non-invasive Occipital Neuralgia treatment.


Understanding your Headache

Occipital Neuralgia and its symptoms

With Occipital Neuralgia, the areas that are affected are directly associated with the areas innervated and supplied by the greater and lesser occipital nerves. These Occipital Nerves are the nerves that supply your brain with the information regarding sensation and pain, from the back of the head. This means that all sensation in the back of the head, neck and ears are reported to your brain via the Occipital Nerve.

Sufferers of Occipital Neuralgia are often extremely hypersensitive and report that slight stimuli, such as touching the neck, or the back of the head, can cause painful attacks. Some of these attacks last as little as seconds, or as long as minutes. 

Sometimes the sensation can feel like:

  • A sharp jab
  • An electric shock
  • Severe pain in the upper part of the neck, back of the head and behind the ears

It is not uncommon for Occipital Neuralgia sufferers to go undiagnosed for long periods of time or even misdiagnosed as conditions such as chronic migraine headaches. This is due to the fact that the symptoms presented and their frequency can be similar to those of chronic migraines. Although occipital neuralgia sufferers and migraine sufferers experience a lot of similar symptoms, one key differentiating factor between Occipital Neuralgia and Migraine is the length of episodes of pain.

Vertigo Headaches

Understanding Your Headache

What is the cause of Occipital Neuralgia?

Occipital Neuralgia has many causes, as the Occipital Nerves are one of the largest nerve structures supplying the head and neck. A common cause is the disruption of signals, causing the nerve to malfunction and produce pain signals when the touch sensation is activated.

Occipital Neuralgia pain may be the result of damage to the Occipital Nerve from surgery, brain lesions, stroke, or even trauma inflicted to the head and neck. Other nerve disorders such as Multiple Sclerosis can have a damaging effect on the Myelin Sheathing, which covers the nerve, and can cause Occipital Neuralgia.

About The Assessment Stage

What To Expect During The Assessment

1. Comprehensive and in-depth examination

We instigate an in-depth assessment to identify all possible related factors that could be causing your headaches or migraines. The upper cervical spine, in particular, is thoroughly examined to identify possible issues.

2. Ligamental stability and vertebral arterial tests

We undertake careful examination of neck ligaments and vertebral arteries, ensuring only the highest standards of patient safety and comfort.

3. Temporarily reproduce your headache and migraine symptoms

As a part of the treatment process, we apply gentle and selective stress to the upper cervical spine in order to reproduce headache symptoms, which subside after 20-30 seconds. This helps to identify and treat the cause of your headaches.

All you need to know about Occipital Neuralgia

Anatomy of the Occipital Nerve

The Occipital Nerve is actually a group of nerves that arise from between the second and third cervical vertebrae (C2/C3) interact with each other.The Greater Occipital Nerve innervates the semispinalis capitis muscle, as well as the scalp.

The Lesser Occipital Nerve innervates the scalp and behind the ears. The Third Occipital Nerve, also referred to as the Least Occipital Nerve innervates the semispinalis capitis muscle, a small area below the base of the skull, and the C2/C3 zygapophyseal joints.

Vascular causes of occipital nerve irritation

• Irritation of the C1/C2 nerve roots by an aberrant branch of the posterior inferior cerebellar artery

• Dural arteriovenous fistula at the cervical level

• Bleeding from a bulbocervical cavernomas

• Cervical intramedullar cavernous hemangioma

• Giant cell arteritis

• Fenestrated vertebral artery pressing on C1/C2 nerve roots

• Aberrant course of the vertebral artery

Neurogenic causes of occipital nerve irritation

• Schwannoma in the area of the craniocervical junction: schwannoma of occipital nerve

• C2 myelitis

• Multiple sclerosis

Osteogenic causes of occipital nerve irritation

• C1/C2 arthrosis, atlantodental sclerosis

• Hypermobile C1 posterior arch

• Cervical osteochondroma

• Osteolytic lesion of the cranium

• Exuberant callus formation after C1/C2 fracture

I’ve tried everything already. What can you do to treat Occipital Neuralgia?

Treating Occipital Neuralgia

Over-the-counter pain relief medication, strong anticonvulsant/antispasmodic medications, Botox injections and even surgical intervention (such as occipital nerve stimulation, or peripheral nerve stimulation) are some of the ways in which Occipital Neuralgia sufferers have attempted to rid themselves of the painful attacks. In some cases, these pain medications and treatments can alleviate the symptoms of Occipital Neuralgia, however, despite all of these treatment options, some sufferers may still find themselves having painful attacks.

If this is the case for you, have you had your neck assessed? Or, more importantly, have you had your brainstem evaluated in order to investigate the CAUSE of your symptoms, rather than simply masking them?

At the Sydney Headache and Migraine Clinic, we have seen countless Occipital Neuralgia sufferers and use world-class techniques in identifying whether the neck and brainstem is at fault.

A thorough examination of the upper cervical spine is initiated to determine the severity of your sensitised brainstem.

Once treatment commences we expect a significant improvement to occur rapidly in 90% of our patients with Occipital Neuralgia and within the first 5 treatment consultations.

If you suffer from Occipital Neuralgia, or if you think it sounds like your symptoms and medication has given you no significant relief, then we believe that you should have a thorough examination of your neck and brainstem.

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